The New York Times’ podcast series “Nice White Parents” may leave listeners convinced that school integration is a failed experiment, doomed by insincere White liberals and no longer desired by many Black families. But in an article for The Century Foundation (TCF), Teachers College alumna Michelle Burris (M.A. ’19) and co-author Stefan Lallinger argue that, in today’s “multicultural, pluralistic society, in which K–12 White students are no longer a majority of American students, both the opportunity and the need to get it right have never been greater.”
Burris, TCF Senior Policy Fellow and a graduate of TC’s Politics & Education program, and Lallinger, Fellow and Director of TCF’s Bridges Collaborative, acknowledge a common refrain in many Black communities of “Give us equal resources and leave us alone.” But “these arguments are in large part a retort to decades of desegregation done wrong, which often debased and devalued Black pedagogy, curriculum, and personnel,” they write. “Moreover, there are few, if any, examples of public, segregated Black or low-income schools that receive equal resources (inclusive of facilities, money, equipment, human capital) as their white or more affluent counterparts.”
School integration does work, and when done well, is one of the best tools we have to ensure a high-quality education for all Americans.
—Michelle Burris (M.A. '19) and Stefan Lallinger
Citing evidence that integration efforts are alive and well nationwide — including in Minneapolis, scene of last spring’s police killing of George Floyd — Burris and Lallinger invoke Martin Luther King’s assertion that “integration is the positive acceptance of desegregation and the welcomed participation of Negroes into the total range of human activities.” They conclude: “School integration does work, and when done well, is one of the best tools we have to ensure a high-quality education for all Americans.”
[Read a profile of Burris and watch a video clip of her from Teachers College’s 2019 Graduates Gallery.]